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In the Ashes of the Fire

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It’s been 1 week, 6 days, 20 hours, 56 minutes and 40 seconds, since they brought Daniel back to the Clock Tower. He shouldn’t have let him leave on his own. The purple-robed ghost knew how strong his young ward was, that in a fair fight, he could have won. But it wasn’t a fair fight, was it?

 

On the 2nd week, 5th minute, and 13th second, Pariah came to the room and offered to switch places with Clockwork to watch over the boy. Insisted that the time-ghost himself should take a rest. He knew he should. He didn’t want to. They watched over the young ghost, who fought for his life while the world stayed still.

And the world did stay still, Clockwork made sure of that. He couldn’t care less about whatever happened to the outside world or the other timelines. He only cared for the child -- and the child’s small town, because Daniel wouldn’t forgive him if anything happened to that place. And deep down, he knew Daniel was right. The mortal world didn't deserve his wrath; they were not involved in this incident this time. So Clockwork turned back time for that town, just enough that it would seem like the young ghost had never left in the first place.

The rest of the realms, however, they could suffer for all he cared.

 

At 3 weeks, 4 days, 12 hours, 55 minutes and 12 seconds, Daniel stirred for the first time since they got back to the Clock Tower. His core was stable enough to maintain his consciousness, but he was still hurt and delirious.

The Master of Time desperately wanted to make time move faster, to when his ward would be fully healed and would go back to his old cheerful self. But he couldn’t risk it. Daniel was hurt by something that was made from Clockwork, from the essence of time itself; he was scared that if he tried to fast forward or slow down time, it could backfire and make it worse instead.

He couldn’t lose Daniel again.

 

On the 4th week, 5th day, 13th hour, 22nd minute and 15th second, Daniel finally woke up. Fully awoke. Clockwork was overjoyed.

However, the moment Daniel registered who was in front of him, he jolted away, wincing as a sharp pain pierced through his chest. Clockwork gently bade the white-haired boy to lay down, explaining how bad his injuries were and urging him to stay in bed.

Once Daniel calmed down, the words that came after broke Clockwork’s heart.

 

“Who are you? Where.. Where am I?”

 

“Oh no.”


 

His name is Danny Fenton. He is -was?- a human. He’s 15 years old and he lives in Amity Park. His parents are Maddie and Jack Fenton, local ghost hunters, and his sister is Jazz Fenton, a straight-A student at Casper high. His best friends are Sam and Tucker. He likes space and stars, and when he was little, he wanted to be an astronaut at NASA. He remembers the days he spent at Casper High vividly. Actually, he can remember a lot of things very clearly.

What he can’t remember, however, is how he got here, who the ghosts in front of him are, and why he’s a ghost himself.

 

Apparently, according to the purple-cloaked one -his name is Clockwork, isn’t it?- they are in the Clock Tower, in a place called the Infinite Realms, or Ghost Zone, is how mortals refer to this place. Danny vaguely remembers his parents telling him about this, in one of their lengthy rambling about ghosts. He misses his parents.

He asks Clockwork when he can go home, and the ghost looks... really sad. Like Danny’s just kicked a puppy, and that makes Danny feel really awful for some reason. He can’t remember anything about this man and yet everything about him feels so... familiar. Safe. Like home. And Danny can’t remember why. It makes his heart ache. Why? 

The blue-skinned ghost asks Daniel to stay at least until he’s fully healed. Almost begs him, even. Danny doesn’t have the heart to say no to that. He really wishes he could remember him; the ghost looks nice. Not at all like the horrible scary monsters his parents used to tell him about.

 

Speaking of scary ghosts, there’s another one in the Clock Tower. A huge, bulking, Viking ghost called Pariah Dark. Danny has… mixed feelings about this ghost. Something about looking at him makes Danny want to duke it out with him in the Nasty Burger’s parking lot. As to why, the reason is lost to him. But instead of fighting him, the older ghost treats Danny fondly, which is very confusing. Whenever Danny unconsciously bristles towards him, Pariah just ruffles his hair and lets out a hearty laugh. Like it’s just a joke between them. Maybe it is. If only he could remember what the joke was.

 

Ghosts aren’t so bad, between these two. Apparently, Danny is one too? Half of one, at least. Half ghost, half human. Sounds weird, but it feels fitting somehow. Although he’s still not sure how he ended up like this, being a half-ghost. He remembers a lot of things very clearly, down to what he had for breakfast before he woke up here. Not a single thing about actually being a ghost himself. 

When he looks at the mirror, he has white hair, tan skin and bright green eyes. A stark contrast from his usual black hair, pale skin and blue eyes. Are ghosts just inverts from their human (?) counterparts? He’s also wearing a black and white jumpsuit for some reason. It reminds him of the Fentons’ jumpsuit. Maybe it is? He doesn’t remember if they have this colour, though. They did have the white and black one for Danny, because it made him look like an astronaut… Why did he wear this jumpsuit to begin with?

According to Clockwork, he can actually change back and forth between human and ghost form, but Clockwork is very much against it. Apparently the damage he sustained to his core (?) and… well, the chest area in general, was really bad. It’s only because of his ghost half’s fast healing abilities that he survived at all. Clockwork advised that Danny should stay in this ghost form until he’s healed completely, and Danny doesn’t think he was lying. The red-eyed ghost always looks distraught whenever he talks about Danny’s wounds, like he worries that the smallest thing will hurt Danny. The young ghost rubs his chest and wonders how he got hurt so badly.

 

The white-haired boy stares out the window. The Ghost Zone’s “sky” is full of swirling greens and black, almost like a Van Gogh painting. Too much like a painting, in fact, ‘cause none of the swirls or floating islands surrounding them ever move. Danny thinks that they should move, even just a little. 

Clockwork says it’s because his lair is in a state of frozen time, for protection. Everyone inside can move normally, but the outside world looks frozen. That doesn’t sound right, but Danny doesn't know enough about time power to dispute it, so he lets it go. He is forbidden to go and look outside until he gets better, however, for fear that the time dissonance will hurt him instead. So Danny is stuck in the tower for now.

 

It’s not too bad, in all honesty. The Clock Tower is surprisingly huge. It has a big library with thousands and thousands of books from all over the timelines. There’s an observatory with star maps, on which the movement of the heavens are visible. That’s Danny’s favorite place. There’s a garden, with fruit trees that are always ripe to pick, no matter the time. There’s a kitchen, one that always smells like pastry, given Clockwork’s various attempts at baking. Danny’s room has stars on the ceilings that match the actual sky above Amity Park. It helps with homesickness, if only just a little.

There’s also a gallery of sorts, lined wall to wall with various dangerous ghost artifacts. It’s really neat. It’s off-limits, for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t stop him from just taking a lil peek. He does, however, turn around and bolt out when he sees a particular Fenton Thermos. Of all the things he can’t remember, he wishes this was one of them.

 

As strange as the concept of being nursed back to health by ghosts is, Clockwork and Pariah do genuinely seem to care a lot about him. Living in the Clock Tower is a lot of fun with these two. He gets to play around all day, watch various historic moments Clockwork found amusing on one of his mirrors, play pranks on them. It’s a great time.

Any attempts at roughhousing with Pariah are met with a very stern scolding from Clockwork, however, in fear of Danny getting hurt again. Clockwork has a point, but Danny still doesn’t like being treated as fragile, and fighting is fun, surprisingly, like he’s back in his element again. But with that out of the question, Danny has little to do again, so he ends up spending the whole day pouting about it. At least, until Clockwork makes some apology pie. It’s good.

 

Sometimes Danny feels restless, like he has too much energy, like he’s supposed to do something. He doesn’t know what or why, and since sparring is not allowed anymore, Danny just lays down on the floor and groans. Pariah suggests that it’s probably his obsession acting up. It’s a ghost thing, apparently, that ghosts have obsessions which they need to satiate or else they will get restless, or worse. He can’t remember exactly what his is, though.

Pariah brings Danny to the observatory and sets the star dome to different coordinates. The resulting constellations are ones that Danny only sort of recognizes, from the other side of the Earth, where Danny has never been. Pariah proceeds to tell him the legends of those stars, and even though Danny has heard some of them before, Pariah's tales are ancient and fascinating nonetheless.

 

==

They try their best to help him regain some of his old memories. Some of them don’t seem to line up: that he would fight ghosts to protect people, that he’s some sort of a superhero or something. A ghost superhero. Hah! As if.

How could he fight ghosts? He’s Danny Fenton, the local weirdo in his year. He’s bullied a lot, and is so clumsy he’s forbidden from the science lab. Ghosts do attack his school, yeah, but he always runs off whenever they come around. The Fentons do have a ghost portal, yeah, but it’s not-- 

wait, no... it is active. 

It’s… active… that’s how the ghosts came to his town. 

But he can’t remember when-- no, he was there. 

Portal was there. 

It was above him. 

Flickering lights and greens clouded his sights.

And then… he--

 

The throbbing in his head and chest hurts really bad, like thousands volts of electric power coursing through him. How could he know what that feels like???

When Danny comes to, he is wrapped in a hug between Clockwork and Pariah. It is strong but soft at the same time. He feels something wet against his face. Is he crying? He buries himself into the hug, nice and safe. His core purrs against the two ghosts.

 

==

Danny floats towards the edges of the barrier, Clockwork’s medallion in his hand. He knows he shouldn’t be here, but he has been inside that tower for who knows how long. His core has long since healed. Clockwork still urges him to stay, though, and refuses to tell him what’s out there. Pariah is no better.

So, if they won’t tell him, he’s gonna find out himself. He is the only one who’s missing a piece of the whole story, and he feels a strong need to know what’s going on, if only so he can decide on his own whether or not he wants to stay. It feels odd to break his promise to Clockwork, but curiosity has gotten the better of him… Oh well, he’s never been good with authority figures, anyway.

Danny puts on the medallion. It hums comfortably against his chest. He reaches out a hand towards the barrier, and it feels like his hand passes through a weird jelly wall. He closes his eyes and pushes forward, letting the feeling of the walls swallow him whole, until finally he passes through. Toxic green eyes slowly open up and he sees… that the world is still frozen.

 

This isn’t right. The Clock Tower is supposed to be the one that’s frozen in time, not… everything else. Something is off. He’s gonna find out what.

 

Flying through frozen time feels weird. Like pausing a movie but being able to move the characters and places around. It’s unnerving, really, being the only one who can move in it. And it’s quiet. Really, really quiet. Danny had never gone back and forth between the Ghost Zone that much, but even then he knew it was never this quiet or empty. Dread starts to fill his mind. He really hopes he’s not the only one who can move outside of Clockwork’s bubble.

Aside from the lack of ghosts, the whole place looks weird. The islands have always been separated and floating in bits, but now a lot of it feels… off. Like it’s decayed. Buildings and doors are either broken from old age or are covered with moss and vines. He still doesn't remember the details, but he knows that’s not how it’s supposed to look.

The young ghost flies off deeper into the Zone, desperate to find someone, anyone, but no one is there.

 

At least… no one he knows.

 

Eventually he reaches a snowy island. The Far Frozen, he muses. Not a lot seems to have changed, aside from how small the island appears to be now. A lot of the structures and machines look broken and rusty, as well. Aside from that, most of it looks fine... At least, until he sees some of the living ghosts. Well, “living” inasmuch as the ones he can find are all trapped in a state of stasis from time being frozen. Some look like they are trying to run away from… something. Some are not so lucky. One of them is stuck partway between disintegrating and frozen at the same time. Danny doesn’t want to think about the ones who didn’t make it.

It takes a while, but he finally finds Frostbite’s house. The ice yeti himself is there, frozen in place as everything else, but he looks really old somehow. Danny’s pretty sure he’s not supposed to be that old. 

 

This is wrong. Everything about this feels really, really wrong. But he doesn’t want to ask Clockwork. Clockwork won’t answer him. No, he has to find someone else, anyone, who knows what’s going on.

 

Danny rummages through Frostbite’s place and finally finds the Infi-Map. He writes Frostbite a note, so he won’t freak out, just in case time moves again. The ghost boy takes a deep breath, and asks the map to take him to the other ghosts who are not frozen in time. At best, he will find someone else. At worst, he can confront Clockwork and Pariah immediately. He really hopes it’s the former.

The Infi-Map glows and takes him to the Observants’ headquarters. As much as they hate him, and vice versa, they are probably the only ones who can tell him what’s going on. When Danny gets there, however, the whole place is already reduced to dust. The only reason Danny even knows it’s the Observants’ headquarters is because of the few remaining rubbles and plaques saying so.

 

Just as Danny is about to give up, he hears a sound coming from a nearby cave.

He floats towards it and sees an Observant who’s wearing a time medallion. Singular Observant. Don’t they usually go around in groups? 

The moment the Observant sees Danny, they screech and try to run away from him.

 

“Wait, no-- please wait!” Danny calls out to them.

 

The ghost begs Danny not to hurt them. That it was an order. They didn’t mean to. The eyeball ghost goes on and on, rambling apologies that Danny doesn’t even know what for. He tries to calm the Observant down and asks them to explain, slowly, what’s going on. Before they can explain, however, something behind Danny startles them and they back away even further. Danny turns around and sees Clockwork behind him. 

 

“Ah, there you are, Daniel. I see you’ve found the last one. I thought I’d gotten rid of all of them,” Clockwork says with a cold fury. It sends shivers down Danny’s spine. 

 

He’s never seen Clockwork so mad before, so angry at… anything, really. Clockwork floats closer to the eyeball ghost, hand coursing with so much time power Danny can feel it. He can’t let Clockwork do this, it’s not right. Before he realizes what he’s doing, he’s put himself in between the two.

 

“Daniel, move,” Clockwork demands. But he doesn’t raise his hand, or use his power.

 

“N--NO! No, I won’t let you hurt them! This is not like you, you wouldn’t hurt people like this!” Danny stutters. Cold sweat is running through his brows. He knows -- they both know that Clockwork could make quick work out of Danny and deal with the last Observant. But Clockwork would never hurt him... right? Danny is banking on that. If he dies right now, at least it will be while trying to protect someone. He nervously swallows. “Please?”

 

That stops the time ghost from getting closer to them. He sighs and lowers his hand. Power flickers and dissipates. Danny lets out a breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding.

Clockwork ruffles Danny’s hair and pulls him closer. Danny flinches a little at the gesture, but immediately relaxes and leans on Clockwork’s chest. His core purrs and he can hear that Clockwork’s is, as well. The time-ghost plants a kiss on the top of Danny’s head and sighs a little.

 

“You really are my weakness, you little rascal,” he chuckles.

 

Danny, still leaning on Clockwork’s chest, feels him wave his staff a bit, and then hears a yelp behind him. The Observant is now trapped in a shielded bubble. Danny is about to protest before Clockwork cuts him off.

 

“Don’t worry, I won’t hurt the eyeball. I’ll deal with them later,” Clockwork says curtly. That’s good enough for Danny, for now at least. Clockwork pulls away from the hug and says, “Let’s go home, shall we? There’s not much going on out here, anyway.”

Danny floats away. “Wha-- No, no, I’m not gonna go home. Not until you explain to me what exactly is going on?! Why is everything frozen in place instead of just your lair? You said it was for protection, but from what? And why does everything look older and decayed? You’ve shown me how Ghost Zone normally is, I know this isn’t right!” The boy takes a breather. “What is going on, Clockwork?”

 

Clockwork sighs. “Fine. I will explain everything, Daniel.” He looks around. “But let’s do it at home; this place is hardly proper to tell a story. It’s a mess. Is that okay with you?”

 

Danny takes a deep breath. He would rather not go back to the Clock Tower just yet, but being out here in frozen time is also not exactly comfortable, to say the least. Everything feels too creepy and wrong and… okay, maybe the Clock Tower isn’t too bad of an option.

 

“Okay… But you better actually tell me everything, promise?” Danny glares at the red-eyed ghost, who nods.

“Yes, Daniel. I will tell you everything.” He ponders for a bit. “Though, you might not like the answer you’ll get.”

 

Danny nods, mirroring Clockwork. It feels wrong to leave everything in this frozen state. He hesitates, and then asks, “... Is.. Is this all your doing? ‘Cause I used your medallion to move around so, did… did you do all this?”

 

“Yes,” Clockwork answers almost immediately, like he doesn’t think it’s a big deal.

 

“Can you fix it? Make time move again, at least?” Danny pleads.

 

Clockwork looks at Danny as though he’s just proposed the dumbest idea ever. He lets out a heavy, disgruntled sigh. “If that’s what you want, I’ll let time flow again. Just for you. But,” Clockwork points at him, “you must stay inside the Clock Tower for the entirety of the process. Promise me this, okay?”

 

“Yeah, yeah! I will if you--”

 

“Daniel, this is serious. The Infinite Realms will have to catch up to the amount of time that has passed at the Clock Tower. Your current state of time. If you step out of the Tower in the middle of this process, the dissonance between the two time states will tear you apart. And then, not even I can help you, thanks to a certain someone.” He gives a pointed glare to the eyeball ghost. The latter shrinks back, mumbling apologies the former doesn’t bother to listen to.

Danny stares at the both of them. Whatever the Observants did, it obviously hadn’t ended well for Danny, or the Observants themselves. “...Okay,” he answers.

 

“Good. Let’s head back, then.” Clockwork waves his staff and opens a portal back to the Clock Tower. Danny looks at the purple ghost for a moment before he steps into the portal, as well, the bubbled Observant floating along behind him.


 

Clockwork looked around the place with disgust. He wanted nothing more than to reduce the whole place down to its atoms, so that not even the Infi-Map would be able to find it again. But he’d already given his word to Daniel, and he couldn’t just take it back, or else he wouldn’t hear the end of it. So, he waved his staff and floated into the portal.

 

The portal closed, and time flowed once again.